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Manchester Urban Institute

Staff Spotlight: Łukasz Stanek

11 January 2018

In our latest 'staff spotlight' for the December-January newsletter, we ask Łukasz Stanek about his research, career highlights and more.

What is your career highlight so far?

I am not sure if it was the academic highlight, but certainly an exciting moment was my discovery of an unpublished book manuscript about architecture by the French theorist Henri Lefebvre (Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Given the importance of Lefebvre for the redefinition of architecture as a practice and as a discipline since the late 1960s, which I discussed in my own book (Henri Lefebvre on Space. Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory, University of Minnesota Press, 2011), the publication of this manuscript changed our thinking about architecture culture of the second half of 20th century. 

Tell us about your current research and what you see as your key academic challenges over the next five years.

I am currently finishing a book about architects, planners, and contractors from socialist countries who worked in West Africa and the Middle East during the cold war. Based on archival materials and interviews in Ghana, Nigeria, Iraq, the UAE and Kuwait as well as 9 Eastern European countries, this book shows how the globalization of architectural practices was informed by competing visions of world-wide solidarity in the cold war, among them socialist internationalism and the Non-Aligned Movement.

What is the dream scenario for you in terms of the impact of your work?

The material structures which the protagonists of my book designed and constructed, the master plans and regulations which they co-wrote, and the curricula which they drafted continue to influence the conditions of urbanisation around the world. I am currently initiating collaborations with governmental and other organisations from Ghana and Iraq to help them to understand this influence better and, quite simply, to provide documentation which is often missing. A case in point is my study of the master plan of Baghdad by planners from socialist Poland (1967, 1973), a document which still guides the development of Baghdad in spite of numerous attempts to replace it.

What do you see as the benefits to working in a broad research institute like MUI?

My research straddles architecture and planning, and it is informed by discussions in geography and urban studies, the economic history of the cold war, and studies on technology transfers. This is why exchanges with scholars in other fields at the MUI are essential. 

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